Questions over ‘very low’ £10m lease for Royal High

The Old Royal High School. Picture: Neil Hanna
The Old Royal High School. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Opposition councillors have demanded answers over how the council agreed the price for the lease of the old Royal High School, one of the Capital’s iconic buildings.

It has emerged that developers Duddingston House Properties, which hopes to build a world-class six star hotel on the site, will pay less than £10m for a 125-year lease of the Greek revival masterpiece, worth as little as £80,000 per year from what is likely to be a multi-million pound business.

Green Party councillor Gavin Corbett called the figure “very low” and indicated that the actual revenue was likely to be significantly less than £10m. Cllr Corbett has secured a meeting with city economy leader Frank Ross to discuss the issue.

He said: “When the lease was raised at finance committee last year I queried it as being very low for such a significant building and high-end use.

“To my mind, it’s the latest example of a real lack of transparency about the financial terms being negotiated for disposal of public buildings, whether for sale or lease. That is why I am meeting the finance convener and senior officials next week to review how such transactions are handled and reported in the future.”

Architectural heritage campaigner Euan Leitch, who opposes the plans, said: “Even with the Duddingston House Properties’ estimated £12m cost of restoration and refurbishment of the building, they seem to be getting a bargain 125-year lease. It would be highly unlikely to find a private owner of a building willing to be so generous with a property deal – why should citizens expect less?”

A spokeswoman for the council said: “The council always endeavours to ensure that we achieve best value when entering into property deals.

“In this case, as well as receiving a one-off payment, the council will also save significant costs from future maintenance each year on the upkeep of the building. The selection of the proposal for the hotel development followed a competition process and offered best value.”

paris.gourtsoyannis@edinburghnews.com